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FARMINGTON – Electric and nonmotorized watercraft will once again be allowed on Farmington Lake starting Saturday, April 16.

The lake, which had been closed to boat use for several years, reopened to such watercraft last year, and an inspection station was added at the entrance to the lake to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species like quagga mussels.

"A lot of people were very excited about us opening it up again," said Cory Styron, the director of the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department.

He said demand and requests from residents also led the department to designate a longer boating season this year. The lake is opening for boat use two weeks earlier than last year and will remain open a month longer.

The inspection station will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. While the inspections are free, there is a fee of $5 a day to use watercraft on the lake. Season passes are available for $50.

Styron said no quagga mussels were found on any of the vessels inspected last year.

While the lake initially opened last year only to nonmotorized watercraft such as kayaks and canoes, electric watercraft were added later. This year, both electric and nonmotorized watercraft are permitted. Fuel-powered watercraft are not permitted.

Styron explained that the lake is too small for fuel-powered boats, and the fuel-powered boats also have an increased likelihood of transporting aquatic invasive species. Prohibiting fuel-powered vessels also helps the city protect the drinking water stored in the lake.

Tonya Stinson, the executive director of the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the organization saw an increase in phone calls last year as a result of opportunities and activities at Farmington Lake.

As the city worked to market the lake, the convention and visitors bureau teamed up with New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to stock five tagged fish. The "money" fish were part of a contest. Anyone who caught a tagged fish could take the tag to the bureau and win a cash prize.

"We had visitors coming up every weekend," Stinson said.

She said the bureau is excited about and supportive of Farmington's efforts to improve recreation at the lake, including plans to open part of the lake for swimming.

"We're just so excited about the increased activity and the increased enhancements," Stinson said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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